Last year, the USDA reported that the population loss in rural communities across the country seems to have slowed, or stopped altogether. For many communities, particularly in the southeast, the economic downturn and the resulting loss of rural manufacturing jobs was the main driver of migration to urban centers. This suggests rural economic recovery could spur a reversal of the migration trends, and rural populations could be on the rise.
Rural SC in Numbers
- Poverty rate is 22.4% in rural SC compared to 15.6% in urban SC (2015)
- Unemployment rate is 6.2% in rural SC compared to 4.6% in urban SC (2015)
- 750,000 South Carolinians live in rural communities
Although rural South Carolina faces many challenges, there are several statewide initiatives focused on creating economic and social opportunities:
USDA Rural Development: They are committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America by providing financial assistance that supports essential public facilities; housing; and health clinics. SCCLF has partnered with the USDA through their Community Facilities Relending Program to deploy capital to rural communities for the purchase and renovation of facilities such as health clinics, schools, government buildings, and equipment like fire trucks and ambulances. Read more here.
Rural Resource Coalition SC: Leaders from a multitude of professional sectors including affordable housing, agriculture, community development, conservation, forestry, heirs’ property, and tourism recognized the need for a united effort focused on sustainable economic development in the state’s rural communities. The group works to create a stronger South Carolina economy through local food markets; working farm and forest conservation; affordable housing; homegrown renewable energy; downstream markets for agricultural and forestry products; and local tourism development.
South Carolina Office of Rural Health: SCORH is dedicated to ensuring equitable access to quality healthcare for all rural South Carolinians.
South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority: RIA is a state agency created by the General Assembly and its purpose is to select and assist in financing qualified rural infrastructure projects. Such infrastructure must meet an essential public purpose of providing environmental facilities and services to meet public health and environmental standards as well as to aid in the development of trade, commerce, industry, agriculture, aquaculture and employment opportunities.
By continuing to partner with public, private, and nonprofit entities, we can work together to meet the growing needs of a shifting rural population.